Napali Coast — DLNR Efforts Showing Improvements
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is saying renewed emphasis — and increased enforcement of camping permits — on the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park this year is already showing improvements.
In a recent news release, officials from the state agency said they knew many years of unpermitted activity, an often-times unforgiving environment and unprepared or unwary visitors would continue to create a special set of challenges and opportunities.
“The combined efforts of the DLNR Divisions of State Parks and Conservation and Resources Enforcement are beginning to show some major results,” DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said in the news release.
There are fewer people illegally entering the area in the park where a state permit is required; there is less rubbish and fewer and less elaborate, long-term illegal campsites being erected by “renegade transportation operators” and their customers, according to Case.
“We’re pleased with the last 10 months of effort and know that we still have much to do to restore the Napali Coast to its rightful place as symbolic of what wild Hawai’i should look like and how it should be cared for,” she said.
DOCARE began stepping up enforcement visits to the Kalalau Section of the park in late 2015. When five Kaua‘i-based conservation officers flew there in mid-August they cited 13 people for being in an unpermitted area (any travel or presence beyond the 2-mile mark at Hanakapi‘ai Stream requires a state permit).
So far in 2016, more than 100 people have been cited. DOCARE officers also saw less evidence of camping supplies and food stuffs being brought in by illegal jet ski operators who are known to charge backpackers and hikers $125-$150 per trip to get to Kalalau Beach.
Last February, DOCARE officers witnessed Francis Alekai Kinimaka land a jet ski on Kalalau Beach. He pleaded no contest to three charges and was sentenced by a Kaua‘i environmental court judge to 150 hours of community service. Officers believe Kinimaka is one of several people who have run illegal transport to Kalalau for decades. These operations generate the bulk of trash and human waste that state parks workers have to airlift out on a regular basis, at great taxpayer expense, according to DLNR.
Following increased enforcement back in February, DLNR said some some people have feigned “some sort of good Samaritan purposes” for the illegal commercial operations.
“There’s no way large coolers, patio furniture, cases of beer, and mattresses are carried in over 11 miles of challenging trail, on someone’s back. For them to claim they are caring for the place just doesn’t ring true,” DOCARE Officer Robert Rushforth said in response to these claims.
Rushforth was also part of the team that issued citations last August. He too believes conditions at Kalalau are improving for people who get a permit.
“We need the support of lawmakers, the state land board, and the environmental courts to increase penalties and give DOCARE officers increased arrest powers to make it tougher on people who don’t show up for court dates because they claim not to have identification or give wrong names and other identifying information,” Rushforth said.
Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell said a sustainable long-term solution is creating new staff assigned to Napali with satellite phones to communicate with DOCARE officers about unpermitted campers, while also adding quality maintenance to the Kalalau campground, the trail and composting toilets.
“We need rubbish consolidation for helicopter operations, and the ability to communicate seasonal weather issues which affect stream flows,” said Cottrell, adding hundreds of thousands of people from around the world visit the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park each year and the DLNR wants to ensure them a “safe and memorable experience.”
Regular clean-up operations over the past few months reinforce the notion that things are improving, according to DLNR. Early in the year, crews were airlifting upwards of 20 large helicopter sling loads of trash and rubbish from Kalalau. In the last few months, the airlifts have been down to two or three loads.